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Byron Shire
May 19, 2024

Proposed new Byron suburb ‘overwhelming’

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Dailan Pugh is concerned about the proposed new West Byron development's impacts on the wildlife-rich Belongil estuary and wetlands.
Dailan Pugh is concerned about the proposed new West Byron development’s impacts on the wildlife-rich Belongil estuary and wetlands.

Dailan Pugh*

The proposed West Byron housing estate will result in a 25 per cent increase in the population of Byron Bay-Suffolk Park and  place massive burdens on already stretched roads, sewerage and schools as well as the Belongil estuary and Byron shire’s koala population.

So now is the time to lobby Don Page (local government minister, minister for the north coast and Ballina MP) if you want any changes to the proposed West Byron suburb before it is approved by the state planning minister Brad Hazard.

The Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI) is determined to rezone the 108-hectare site along Ewingsdale Road to residential (R2 and R3), industrial (IN2) and business (B1), with areas in the vicinity of Belongil Creek and on the periphery zoned for environmental protection (E2 and E3).

The DPI claims this will allow for up to 1,100 houses, though with minimum lot sizes of 150m2 there could be more than this.

No minimum lot size is proposed for commercial areas, though the plans allow for at least 70 industrial lots and 40 shops. You have until the end of January to comment on their plans for our town.

The land is to the south of Ewingsdale Road, from Inghams through to the bridge across Belongil Creek.

About half the land is owned by the Crighton Group, with the balance owned by Gousse Holdings Pty Ltd, Telicove Pty Ltd and Fletcher Project Developments Pty Ltd, along with a few smaller individual landholdings.

A number of the smaller landholders oppose the proposal.

The Crighton Group is an aged care and property development group made up of 15 companies (including Crighton Byron) that collapsed in April and now has administrators appointed to liquidate their assets.

The plans have been modified since they were first exhibited in late 2011.

DPI received 405 submissions, of which 245 supported the development.

As a result one proposed development area adjacent to the Belongil estuary has been removed, the commercial areas reduced by 10ha and the residential areas expanded by 5.5ha.

Residential lot sizes have been significantly reduced (with lot sizes reduced to 200m2 for most of Belongil Fields, and lots as small as 150m2 permitted) so as to allow an overall increase in the scale of the development.

Most objections, including many concerns raised by government agencies, were either ignored or dismissed.

No need

The proposal is contrary to the 2007 Far North Coast Regional Strategy as Byron Bay already has more than enough land zoned for development to satisfy its growth targets until after 2031.

Map showing the location of the proposed West Byron Project. Source westbyronproject.com.au
Map showing the location of the proposed West Byron Project. Source westbyronproject.com.au

There is no need for a development of this scale. This development will stretch our infrastructure to breaking point.

Something like a 20 per cent increase in vehicles trying to get into town along Ewingsdale Road will turn traffic jams into a nightmare.

The capacity of the sewerage treatment plant will rapidly be exceeded. The primary school will soon be bursting at the seams.

This development along the main entry to town will diminish the small-town feel and atmosphere of Byron Bay which contributes to our tourism appeal, and when combined with increasing traffic jams will be detrimental to our tourism industry.

The development of a light industrial area in what should be a 300-metre setback from Inghams will quickly lead to conflicts and likely force the closure of Inghams and the 300 jobs it provides. Though there will be more jobs in the building industry.

Three-quarters of the site has acid sulfate soils which become toxic when drained.

The proposed drain will generate sulphuric acid and cause the mobilisation of toxic metals, and thus have dire consequences for the health of the Belongil estuary and its inhabitants.

Core koala habitat, an essential link through Sunrise between Tyagarah and Cumbebin koala groups, will be cleared, isolated and surrounded by development.

The vulnerable Masked Owl, Olongburra Frog and Wallum Froglet will also lose significant areas of habitat.

Development of a spur jutting into fire prone vegetation and of flood-prone land will create hazardous situations for many new residents.

In an era of rapidly rising sea levels it will not take long for the estuary to start rising, flooding low-lying areas, displacing fresh groundwater, and exacerbating flood events.

It is not a wise place to develop when other options are available.

It is evident that DPI is deaf to community and environmental concerns and have no intention of addressing key issues before they recommend that the minister for planning approve the development.

If you have concerns then you are best to let our government representative Don Page know ([email protected]) and ask him to ensure that rezoning is postponed until:

• an effective solution to traffic congestion on Ewingsdale Road is implemented
• the impacts of the proposed drain on acid sulfate soils and the Belongil estuary are fully assessed, and
• his promise of two years ago to require a Koala Plan of Management is honoured.

Exhibition documents are at http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=3547

* Dailan Pugh is a respected north-coast based conservationist and a founder of the Byron Environmental and Conservation Organisation (BEACON).

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  1. Collective madness is rampant in Byron with no thought for wildlife, locals, the social amenity of the community. Greed is out of control and I m afraid that neither Don Page nor his awful government could care about the future of this rapidly deteriorating shire. NSW – the ugly state, breeding ground for developers, festival sharks and nightmares. This is a moment for massive demonstrations but is anyone out there who cares ? Thanks Dailan for your dedication.

  2. IMO we already have a traffic nightmare in Byron and no governmental body seems to care and if they do they are reticent to act,wether it be local, state or federal. Blind freddy could at least alleviate it by sending all tourist busses coaches to be dropped off at the Butler reserve and market grounds. I am sure the New Sports ground would make a better place for the larger markets and the smaller farmers market could be at any of the sports grounds in town but no .someone wont like that because it alleviates congestion and if we keep traffic jammed it will keep away some of the tourists who cant take the impending road rage.I think Byron might as well realise this IS a tourist town.
    The main problem as I see it is the dichotomy of dollars verses common sense. The Byron markets are about dollars remaining in the CBD. IMO they are the least attractive markets in the northern rivers mainly due to location, but no cant move them “too easy”vested interest cant see beyond the quick buck.Obviously Byron CBD needs a bypass wether that is done by light rail or a common sense use of the rail crossings, doesnt really matter it will only alleviate some of the traffic. I would personally like to see a railway but if its not coming put a parallel bypass in there.and half dozen more rail crossings.No doubt there are a myriad of red tape reasons why not which all fall neatly into place for the fiscal powers that be that maintains the untenable status quo.State rail Vs local government Vs environmental studies by all and sundry, could take another 50 years,( It will be the 60s again by then)..=Seriously cant even blame Abbott or the Libs on this.. its failure to act, by now and previous local governments . Too hard basket.?.its actually a no brainer, it may not be ideal but it will be better than it is. Regards the initial question of more housing or not.. personally the heart says yes if done properly.. but all sniping aside I honestly dont think this party town local government can handle the extra workload. their backs are against the wall with what they have on and they are not famous for taking tough decisions or seeing the bigger picture…while i am on the whinging roll brings me tothe submitting of these views has the most difficult CAPTCHA hiroglyphics i have ever come across..

  3. Excellent piece. I quite agree with you. I think there is more than enough ro for expansion to the east of Ewingsdale rd without another imposition to the west.

  4. This sort of development push goes to the heart of land use and land ownership in western society. It is obviously an inappropriate area for a large and dense mix of residential, light industrial and 40 shops. Yet a group of corporations already in liquidation, that is, unable to pay its existing debts, is pushing for a large scale development of privately owned land against the wishes of some of the neighbouring land owners. This land was stolen from the local Aborigines at gunpoint in the 1800’s and first sold by the NSW Colonial Govt to settlers from England as farmland.

    Now, in 2014, the “owners” seem to think they have a legal right to sell off the land in 150 Square metre parcels with the society/community having no say in how this land is utilised. Any legal right to the land has been created by the society of the day and can be changed by any future society. Our current land and mining laws were inherited from feudal England and are not very different to the laws under King Henry VIII. It is a system designed to protect the property rights of those with enough Capital (Money) to be able to control (and use/harvest/develop) land which has been there in its present form for thousands of years, even before Aborigines set foot on the soil around Cape Byron.

    People need to wake up to the obvious rip off of all our rights to decide how land is used in our society. We have more power than we realise as we have created a democratic system yet most people feel powerless against politicians and corporations with a development agenda who work together to create more unsustainable suburbs and shopping centres where no food is grown and everyone buys food in packages from other places. How about low density housing and eco friendly, Byron Style building with lots of trees, an enhanced koala habitat, a community garden space, larger estuary reserve and on only those lots that want to partake.

  5. another few thousand cars on ewingsdale road each day?
    the council have clearly lost their collective minds… but then we know how the council feels…. stuff the people, think of the revenue and taxes …

  6. Before anyone collectively nails the members of Byron Council, might be prudent to follow the money behind these proposed developments, will give you a fair idea as to “who” benefits the most.

  7. well written…….
    crazy idea and scale,
    maybe good for affordable housing , but at what cost ?
    enviroment/animals and humans………

  8. It’s not the Council’s fault – they rejected the application and the developers took it to the State Government. They’re the ones to blame and to complain to!

  9. ..but wait a minute, this means that a few developers might not make a windfall profit ?!?… and a couple of them are ‘locals’ !! ..

    It would destroy the place, for sure!

    Are you listening Byron Council ???

  10. There is no need for a development of this scale. This development will stretch our infrastructure to breaking point.
    We are already overwhelmed by the traffic snarls!

  11. The proposed area is a major acid sulphate soil hazard, and development is highly likely to raise the already high levels of acid sulphate drainage to the estuary. And rising sea levels will exacerbate this problem very quickly. And you think Belongil is a problem???

    This seems to me to be a classic case of profit in the private pockets rather than benefit to the community. Until infrastructure develops to the point that Byron can cope with an increased population, it would be madness to add to the problems. On the other hand – more ratepayers?? Hmmm?

    IMHO developments should be assessed in this priority; 1. Is it sustainable? (environmental, etc) 2. Is it beneficial to the community as a whole? (not just to the investors), and then finally (and only if the other two are OK) 3. Is it economic (or how do we do it most efficiently)?
    But our current assessment process is the exact reverse!!

  12. 1100 more homes x 2.5 people = 2500 more bodies with no extra employment .Bring on a one stop retirement village and funeral home along with a few wedding function centres,this will give jobs in a town with one of the highest unemployment rates in NSW. There are not enough beds for old locals to stay in Byron Shire and no Crematorium.Businesses will benefit from families visiting their loved ones or attending weddings.Young people will be provided with jobs to look after the older generation or catering for the huge wedding business .

  13. This is Ecocide!!!! We are living in the 21st century and the struggle to broaden the paradigm to incorporate the rights of nature…and our dependence upon same is now paramount. This must be stopped at all costs. Acid sulphate soils noted under the term “designated development” halted the Club Med development. This development is not ‘progress” (the paradigm from last century) this proposal the stance of ignorance and greed. The rights of nature transcend the promises of politicians and the confused status of some green representatives. Only a grass roots opposition will stop this. “Wilful ignorance” has teeth in Canadian law and lets hope in Australia. It is a criminal act to violate the rights of nature..and Acid Sulphate soils will destroy all life rapidly.

  14. It may be time to change tack and start to organise just like we did with CSG to stop the maddness. i think it is time for Byron to have a functioning environment centre staffed 7days a week where concerned people can come together to plan for effective ways to address environmental concerns.
    If it can be done in Nimbin, Casino, Murwillumbah then Byron should be a breeze. Come on people it is time to act, to get involved and to stop thinking that someone somewhere will fix it.
    Going and voting once every four years is not democracy, writing a submission now and then is not enough. If we want to protect our environment and our way of life then we will have to do what the Mormons, the Jehowah witnesses do. Doorknocks, face to face, demos and DNVA. The time to do nothing is over!!
    I can be reached on 0401237903


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